Overview

Fall 2021
Tuesday 3:30-6:00 p.m.


Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, it has become conventional wisdom for most scientists that “race” in humans is an illusion. That is, this thing called race cannot be biologically defined based on genetic variation among individuals and populations, and there is virtually no genetic rationale for grouping humans into fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits. Nonetheless, consensus that conceptions of race fixed in biology are a myth does not mean the effects of racial classifications are not real and consequential. For example, some of us experience mistreatments on account of our assigned race and must contend with traditions and economic and social policies that reinforce race-based inequalities, while for others of us, our assigned race yields certain advantages and rewards.

This university course will provide foundational knowledge about and explore the origins and meanings of the concept of race. It will examine the evolution, pervasiveness, and consequences of racial classifications and racial hierarchies in the U.S. and around the world. The course will also introduce students to the concept that race is linked to all disciplines and will highlight scholarship and scholars from across Duke. Weekly opportunities for reflection and discussion will be woven into the course, with teaching students how to constructively engage in potentially difficult conversations as an express goal.